Well, that was…interesting to say the least. Your Philadelphia Phillies began the 2018 campaign with a 1-2 start which wasn’t even as good as that sounds.
Through the first three games of the season… The “revamped” bullpen has pitched 15 2/3 innings (none of which were thrown by their major free agent acquisitions), the manager/analytics guru/health nut has made some of the dumbest moves I can remember in a Philly premier since Ricky Watters and his “for who, for what” and with the exception of Aaron Nola, the starters have been worthless. But, hey, it can’t get any worse…right?
In game of the Gabe Kapler era, Nola was cruising through the first 5.1 innings and owning a 5-0 lead. After a Kapler, despite Nola having thrown just 68 pitches, decided that was enough and yanked him for Hoby Milner (yup, Hoby Milner). Milner proceeded to give up a 2 run HR and things started rolling downhill. After a scoreless inning from Luis Garcia, a combination of Adam Morgan, Edubray Ramos and Hector Neris proceeded to keep things rolling. Morgan and Ramos each recorded 2 outs but allowed 3 runs between them. Neris came in to try and close it out but instead gave up a 3 run walk off to Nick Markakis completing the 8-5 come from ahead loss. The offense managed 4 runs on 6 hits but 4 of them were from Rhys Hoskins (2 2B) and Cesar Hernandez (HR). They struck out 11 times. So much for the focus on OBP. Was it Opening game jitters???
Kapler went to the bullpen early again in game 2. This time, he allowed Nick Pivetta to throw 73 pitches (yup, more than Nola) through 4 innings before puling him while trailing 3-2. This time, it worked a little better as Kap used 8…8 additional pitchers over the next 7 innings. The bullpen allowed just one run as the Phils got their first win of the season with a Carlos Santana sac fly in the 11th (after a 5th inning HR for his first hit as a Phillie). Kap also used the majority of his bench as well in the game. They did manage 10 hits and 5 walks this time but some bad trends were starting to show. In addition to Santana, Hoskins also hit his first HR of the season getting the Phils out to an early lead. Scott Kingery, in his first start (at 3B) recorded the first 2 hits of his career as well. While they got the win, 5-4, things were not looking pretty early on.
Game 3 was the icing on the “Did we pick the right manager?” cake. Other than Santana, Hoskins and Kingery (2 doubles) absolutely everything that you’d think could go wrong…and one that you’d never think of…did. After Vince Velasquez allowed 7 runs (4 earned) on 9 hits in just 2.2 innings, things started rolling again. Kapler’s first move, once again, was to call on Hoby Milner. There was one small problem…Milner had not even started to warm up in the pen! Yes, your manager called on a pitcher without letting him warm up. There was confusion with the umps and Atlanta’s manager and Milner and pretty much everyone in the stadium. Milner was docked warm up pitches by the umpire for taking to long out come out of the pen. After that debacle, Milner managed to get out of the inning unharmed. Jake Thompson took care of that, allowing 5 runs on 6 hits over the next 2 innings. After using 2 more arms from the worn out bullpen, Kapler called on…Pedro Florimon. Yes, it took just 3 games before the Phillies had to use a position player as a pitcher. I’m fairly certain that is a record (he said sarcastically knowing full well that it is). Meanwhile, the defense committed 4 errors as the Phils fell to 1-2 with the 15-2 drubbing.
Hoskins, Kingery and Hernandez have started hot with at least 4 hits each. No other player has more than 2. The team has drawn walks (15) but they have also struck out 30 times (Hernandez and Aaron Altherr with 5 each). It’s early, I know, but Kapler’s lineup decisions and defensive substitutions (yanking Hoskins early in game 1) have left something to be desired. Will the constantly rotating lineups and defensive positioning create havoc and confusion among the players? We’ll have to see how thing splay out.
Yeah…I think I covered it. Thanks Aaron Nola for not sucking. Sorry your boss yanked you. Everyone else…you pretty much suck. We’ll have to keep a close eye on the situation with Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter’s health. If either or both miss significant time, this could get real ugly, real fast.
Around the N.L. East
The Nats are off to a hot start at 3-0. The Braves (courtesy of the Phils) and Mets are both 2-1 and the Marlins are sitting at 2-2. That leaves the Phils staring directly up at the rest of the division after opening week.
Hopefully, after having the off day on Easter, the Phils can take a cue from a guy who lived about 2000 years ago and “rise” to the occasion in week 2. Kapler needs to show he knows what he’s doing and has a true feel for the game and that not everything is based on analytics. He can “Be Bold” as much as he wants but if it doesn’t turn into some wins, he’s going to make the Ryne Sandberg era look like a Wall of Fame worthy career.
Writer’s note: I hope I never again have to reference the manager as many times in one article as I did here.